December 29, 2015

Santa Came!

For the first time ever Santa paid a visit to my house, and for the first time in 13 years we were all together for Christmas. Magic was in the air, and there was a tinge of sadness in our hearts that mom wasn't there. We carried on traditions, and Parmesan salad & snow tunnel cake were musts when it came to planning the menu. Dinner was a success. Blaine made it home just in time, and it was a special treat to have dad join us. Mike stayed the night with Daisy & Tuco. Needless to say we had a very full house on Christmas eve. Santa snuck in, while visions of sugar plums danced in our heads.

Just before 7 o'clock there was a knock at the door, Nick informed us that Santa had indeed arrived. We all gathered around the tree. Soon after, piles of torn paper surrounded us. Nick was thrilled to receive a Xbox Kinect, Nerf guns and even a BB gun. Addison wasn't quite sure what to make about all the fuss, but she is enjoying her shopping cart, big wheel, new books and a stroller, which she often uses to tote around guns rather than her baby dolls. The rest of us received all sorts of goodies, but the best gift of all was our presence. This year has taught us all how meaningful that is.

Christmas day my dad soaked up the rays, while Frank and I soaked in the hot tub. Dad has never traveled away from home for Christmas, he took a liking to how we do it in the desert. Later, we celebrated with Frank's family at his cousin's house. We enjoyed a great meal, and laughter ensued when we gathered around the table for a Cards Against Humanity session.

Days before Christmas, I took the family to Ethel M's to share my tradition of admiring the festive lights that cover the cactus garden. We followed that up with dinner at In-N-out and dessert at Sweet Addiction.

I hope Santa brought you all the wonderful gifts of the season.

December 24, 2015

December 22, 2015

A Quickie in LA

As I mentioned my dad is visiting. Prior to his arrival, Amy and I discussed a trip to the Grand Canyon. It seemed like a good idea since we haven't been, but the logistics were not practical. Amy is uncomfortably pregnant and I'm just getting back on my feet, it's chilly and quite aways from home. We scratched that idea, and came up with Plan B, which was to introduce dad to the gloriousness that is Langer's Pastrami. I found a cheap van rental via ACE Rent A Car, customer service was lacking, but the 12 passenger van fit the seven of us well. We had plenty of personal space; which is welcomed on road trips. I secured a good rate last minute via Hotwire at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Hawthorne and booked two rooms.

We left Vegas about 8 o'clock Saturday morning. Our first stop was lunch at Langer's. Dad enjoyed the pastrami and the latkes, which came as no surprise. It was fantastic as always. LA was warm and clear, it was a lovely afternoon. I wanted to soak up the warm rays, it's been so chilly at home I couldn't get enough. We got settled at the hotel, and then we set off for the beach. Unfortunately, our plans were derailed when a storm blew in. We watched the rain fall at Manhattan Beach with hopes it would soon pass, but no such luck.

We ended up relaxing at the hotel, and later Frank and Nick were able to swim. Hunger didn't strike until late so we grabbed some eats at Ricos Tacos El Tio. It's a quaint space around the corner in Inglewood. The neighborhood has the reputation of being "ghetto" but Frank and I found no issue with it. We drove, but it was easily walkable from the hotel. We brought back tacos, burritos, quesadilla and a torta. The latter two were the best of the bunch. The torta is where it's at! The quesadilla wasn't only your typical grilled flour tortilla dripping with grease from meat & cheese. This was fully loaded with lettuce, pico and avocado. Muy bueno!

Sunday morning, we cruised through Inglewood seeing the Forum and Randy's Doughnuts; before arriving in Marina Del Ray, since we've never been. There wasn't much to woo us, so we drove around a bit finally coming upon a sledding track made from fake snow and hay bales located across from the beach. We hopped out for a photo because the concept cracked us up. Nick and I ended up going for a ride. I was nervous about my ankle, but they say it's healed... I'd never get the opportunity to sled at the beach again so I had to go for it. I totally admit poking fun at it, but it was a helluva good time. It was warm, I wasn't bundled, it was slick and speedy. They're on to something here in LA!

Afterwards, we stopped at the park nearby. The kids chased the birds, and we took turns on the swings. We were going to walk over to the beach but Mike preferred we go to Venice Beach. We took the short drive, parked and walked over to the water. The sand was pretty compact which I appreciated, I'm not quite ready for the loose sand yet. Clouds rolled in, it was a bit too chilly to stay too long. Plus, we were hungry, Mike had his sights set on Joan's on Third. So, we continued on to Hollywood for a bit. I thought a late lunch would be less hectic, but no such luck. The place was a zoo. Frank drove around while we placed an order to go. We chowed on sandwiches on the road back home. It was a whirlwind trip, but we enjoyed ourselves. It's always nice to make new memories.

December 14, 2015

Day by Day

"So day by day, I will move on

Can't stop now, it's been too long

Day by Day, I will grow stronger

Strides I take, they will grow longer

Day by Day, step by step,

Live my life, no regrets

Day by day, I will keep movin' on, day by day"

- Day by Day, Dirty Heads

This Friday marks the 12-week mark after surgery. Recovery has been slow and frustrating, but I feel I'm in the home stretch now. I've made great strides the past couple weeks. My walking is improving, I moved back upstairs, I can wear two shoes, and I even started driving with only the right foot. I was released from the boot at 10 weeks. An ankle brace was the next step; however, if I wear it all the time, it will restrict my range of motion. Which seems counter-intuitive, the doctor was in agreement that it is best to improve range and gain strength. If I walk on uneven surfaces, in crowds or long distances I'll lace up. The rest of the time I want to put my foot and ankle to work to get all those parts moving in unison as they should. I still have a lot of work to do, but I've definitely turned a corner. I'm feeling more like myself everyday. I've not been able to walk four of the past seven months, the remaining three have been a struggle. It has really taken a toll on me, but I feel like a return to normalcy is near.

Getting out and about is great for lifting my spirits. We've had a couple meals out (Joe's and Sage - Yum!), enjoyed time with friends... even solo trips to Sam's Club feel liberating. Our Thanksgiving was quiet, but nice. We we were only a small group this year so we simplified the menu for ease. Frank went to Chicago. So, it was just Mike, Amy & Jeff, the kids and me. My double oven has been wonky since we moved in, but with the help of a infared thermometer gun - dinner was a success. I never would've thought Frank's impulse buy would be so useful, but I rely on it often. I roasted the turkey, and made sausage stuffing and cornbread casserole. Amy whipped up mashed potatoes, gravy and green bean casserole. We had pumpkin and apple pie for dessert.

When Frank returned home, we celebrated his birthday at Sage. Then, a few days later, Bob and Hugh came for a quick visit. We took them to Mariscos Playa Escondido for dinner. It remains my favorite restaurant and it never disappoints. We also spent sometime downtown bar hopping on East Fremont and we did a little gambling at El Cortez. We found two gems at the Container Park. First, Oak & Ivy has fantastic craft cocktails. I was a big fan of the Whiskey Smash... typically, I don't like whiskey so this was a feat. Second, we stumbled on Jinju Chocolates. This petite chocolate shop is hand crafting the most delectable treats. And they have free samples!

We spent an evening at Gameworks, and then went to see Absinthe at Caesars Palace. Frank and I saw the show about a year ago, but I was still excited to see it again. I love that it is a variety show offering the best of everything. A couple acts have changed, but overall it is still highly entertaining and full of non-stop laughs. They do offer a local's discount too.

I cannot believe Christmas eve is 10 days away. The holiday will be bittersweet. Christmas was my mom's favorite by far, so it stings a bit that she will not be with us this year. Especially since Amy, Mike and I will be together; A first since 2002. It's been fun to see the joy of Christmas through Addy and Nick's eyes. Addison redecorates my tree daily and 'ooohs and ahhhs' every time I light it. Nick tracks Magico's (Elf on the Shelf) every move and anticipates his chocolate treat from his advent calendar. Even I'm excited for Christmas morning. My dad will be visiting for the holidays. He arrives tomorrow and he'll stay through the new year. We're all excited to visit with him.

The days of 2015 are winding down. I'm very much looking forward to the new year. The last two have been my most difficult. I'm ready to put them behind me, and hope the best is yet to be.

December 9, 2015

Jessie Rae's BBQ

Barbecue takes patience and know how. I'm not graced with either gift, so I prefer to grab smoky succulent meat out when the craving strikes. My love of barbecue was unleashed in Austin, Texas. I can't get there as often as I'd like, so I must search for meaty goodness near home. I don't like chains so for a long time the Valley was lacking in options.

Thankfully, times have changed and we're lucky to have some pretty great barbecue right here in Las Vegas. While some are growing by leaps and bounds, others are just getting their start like Jessie Rae's BBQ. They are a small operation putting love into everything they do. Open for lunch Monday thru Friday, plus an occasional Saturday.

Just minutes from the strip on Valley View, you'll be greeted with a waft of smoke that fills the air when you pull up to the quaint building that is home to Jessie Rae's BBQ. A friendly "hello" welcomes you at the door, the menu is simple but offers variety. If you're lucky, the owner Mike will suggest daily specials. You'll find the best selection if you go early. When they run out, that's it for the day. It's also worth a mention that all sauces are made in house. Prices are not cheap, but real barbecue never is.

The dining room is tiny so they have a steady stream of carry-out business. My brother and I were fortunate to find a seat. It took only a few short minutes before Mike brought out our grub. My combo was Pulled Pork and sliced Brisket ($14). He opted for the Double Brisket sandwich for ($12). Both had the choice of one side, we each chose the Mac N Cheese. The combo offered a hearty portion of meat, more than I could finish. Both meats were very good. I don't know that I could choose one over the other. Which is going to make the choice difficult on future visits. The brisket was extremely tender, it had a nice smoke ring and it was loaded with flavor. It was great on its own and even better with God's sauce or Fallen Angel for a more fiery bite. The Pig Sweat was the third sauce option, and I know it is customary for pulled pork, but it's too vinegary for my liking. My brother enjoyed his sandwich too; tender brisket with the extra benefit of bold and flavorful burnt ends. The bun was fresh and it was dense enough to support the weight of the meat - which can be a feat in itself. Good eatin' for sure. I just love these mom & pop gems.

December 2, 2015

A Celebration at Sage

For Frank's birthday this year, he chose Sage. It is our favorite restaurant so I had no doubt we'd be in for a treat. The eats did not disappoint, however, the service was sluggish at best. We've dined nearly a dozen times before and it's never been like this... how do you begin a tasting menu without silverware? Yes, that happened. And no, I didn't expect "Oh, shit!" as response. But that's how it went and it didn't much improve throughout the meal. Thankfully, our signature tasting menu was as delicious as it was beautiful. The menu runs $89 and offers a few options, in addition to our choices we also ordered a side of sweet breads. Simply because we could, and why wouldn't you? They are superb. Each dish was expertly prepared, but the Octopus blew us away. All others will be compared to this going forward; I doubt any will be as tender. Truly fantastic. And the black truffle crumbs and ice cream completely outshined the walnut tart, but I didn't mind in the slightest. I adore savory & sweet. Needless to say, the delightful bites won us over, and despite the hiccups it was a fine way to celebrate.









November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wherever you are and whatever you do... Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish you all a delicious feast with those you hold dear.

November 23, 2015

The Blue Man Group

Aside from running a couple errands, grocery shopping, a few meals and two dinners at friend's houses, I haven't gotten out much in the past two months. I was delighted to learn that Travelzoo was offering $25 tickets for locals to preview performances of the Blue Man Group. They are now, back at The Luxor. Frank and I had seen the show ages ago in Chicago. We liked it then, and I thought it was something Nick would also enjoy. He's been really into music lately, and I thought it would be a good introduction to a production show. I bought tickets for the 6pm performance on Monday evening. Mike joined us.

The theater is easy to find on the mezzanine level. You are able to bring drinks inside the theater if they are in plastic containers. We stopped at Starbucks beforehand, Nick's choice. We had seats in Row E 46-49. They were on the far right of the stage. If given the choice I'd try for something more centrally located so you don't need to crane your neck. That said, the seats suited us just fine. It was a full theater, and the show flowed as it should despite it being a preview. The acts were fun and interactive. The show has changed quite a bit since I first saw it. Back then, there were no smart phones, and even Razr cellphones didn't exist so there were no selfies. Both now monopolize much of the show. I prefer the percussion acts, but it's a fair mix of comedy, art and music. It's fun for all ages. Ideal for first timers, those with a bunch of Cirque Shows under their belt might be a bit disappointed by the meager production value (by comparison), but don't let it dissuade you. Especially, if you can snag discounted tickets. Nick didn't know much about The Blue Man Group prior to going, but he did have a good time. He loved the dance party. He wanted the autograph of a Blue Man, but settled with a photo.

November 20, 2015

The Road to Recovery

After two weeks in the splint it was time to upgrade to a cast and have the stitches removed. I didn't know what to expect, but the incisions were cleaner than I imagined. I had two small ones along the top of my ankle from the arthroscopy, and of course the large one pictured below from the Brostrom-Gould procedure and peroneal tendon repair. It sort of looked like a freaky smiley face. It probably would have been better had I not stopped pain medication days prior. I had healed so nicely, the stitches were a bit stubborn to remove. The burning and stinging was tolerable, but definitely uncomfortable. I was relieved when it was done.

Then, my frankenfoot was prepped for a hard cast. I was given my choice of colors, but I let Nick make the selection. He chose blue. And so, the next two weeks went by at a snails pace. I much preferred the splint. It wasn't as heavy and it allowed for swelling. It also didn't snag my bedding. I fought claustrophobia a few times, I know how silly it seems, since the cast only covers the foot and all, but when my foot would swell, it would really freak me out. It was difficult to find comfortable positions, my heel would routinely go numb. My toes remained numb since the surgery too, so overall it was really uncomfortable. I was relieved when I found a pocket in pillows that allowed me to rest - at least for a bit. I lusted over sleep, but it so rarely came.

Finally, on the 22nd of October it was time to remove the cast. Showering without a garbage bag taped to my leg seemed like such a luxury. I was so hopeful that sleep would come easier, it took time, but it eventually did. My incision was healing nicely. I transitioned into the boot, though, I was still unable to bear weight it came as great relief. I no longer fought the claustrophobic episodes. It's amazing how being in control can reduce anxiety.

I anxiously awaited the next two weeks to fly by. My next appointment was at 6 weeks post-op, I was eager to get cleared to walk. I was also excited to be able to use the hot tub again. I did receive the doctor's blessing to begin walking, but when I tried I realized I didn't know how. I was crushed. It might have been foolish of me, but I really thought I'd just be able to walk. I thought it would be like all the times I sprained it before - it would hurt, but I could muster steps, and they'd gradually improve. No such luck, my foot was lame. So much so, I'd swear my foot didn't exist; it felt like I was standing on a stick. The numbness and pain was too much to bear. It was simply too weak and stiff. My range of motion was so little I couldn't walk, no matter how badly I wanted to. I wanted to start physical therapy immediately and be aggressive with the schedule. I thought since my deductible was met, I'd only be responsible for co-insurance. However, I was mistaken. Visits would run $75 each visit. Paying $900/mo was out of the question. Who could afford that?

It took an hour and more than a dozen phone calls, but I found a facility that was covered and could see me a few days later rather than weeks. I'm opting to go only once a week, for now, my therapist gives me lots of homework in between sessions. I've only gone twice, but after the first week I was able to take my first steps since having the surgery. I can only do so in the boot, but I'll take it. He pointed out that my heel was not touching the ground & you must if you'd like to walk. It seems like the simplest task to sit flat footed with your heel to the ground, but let me tell you, I had to work at it for five days before it began to feel somewhat normal. The pins and needles sensation remains, unfortunately. It may be a long time before it improves. It's possible, I'll never regain full feeling. I certainly hope it's not the case, but at least I can prepare for it, if it happens to be.

At seven weeks, I started walking extremely short distances in the boot. By the eight week mark, I'm weening from the knee scooter and building my endurance walking. I cannot wait to take a step without the aid of the boot. I keep trying with the help of the walker at home, but I tire easily. In the meantime, I'll keep at my exercises, building strength and improving range of motion.

November 16, 2015

Nick is Nine

Nick turned nine on the 4th of November. It seems impossible, but it's true. We celebrated at Outback Steakhouse, which was his choice, he loves the ribs there. Then, rather than a party he chose to have his friend Gavyn stay overnight. The boys played games, built their own pizzas and sundaes. We sang happy birthday and he enjoyed the cake Amy made that was half vanilla and chocolate.

Then, the next day Amy took the boys to Hardkore Parkour. Nick has been very interested in it for the past month or two. He was super excited to go. The gym offers a number of challenges including foam pits, trampolines and tumble tracks. It's a workout, but he had a blast and he cannot wait to return. This boy is smart, funny, kind and curious. I love him to pieces. It brings me so much joy to see him learn and grow daily. Tonight, we are taking him to see his first Las Vegas show, Blue Man Group.